The Sublime Object of Postmodernity

Author: Timothy Melley (Miami University)

  • The Sublime Object of Postmodernity


    The Sublime Object of Postmodernity



In the last several decades much discussion in the humanities and social sciences has focused on an array of purportedly new identities and political positions: postfeminist, post-Marxist, postcolonial and, of course, postmodern. This trend indicates substantial unease about historical periodization, a difficulty marking social or cultural tendencies. The "post" is an oddly retro-futurist conception that hinges on a central contradiction: on the one hand, an unwillingness to specify change in decisive, positive terms; on the other, an urgent declaration of radical transformation–the end of an era, the arrival of a brave new world. Our society is fundamentally different, says the post, but we can speak of it only in the terminology of the past. This form of self-description seems appropriate to an era marked by skepticism about ontological grounds. Yet it does not simply articulate anxiety about groundlessness; it also offers a form of psychic compensation; it offers a dramatic periodizing gesture itself as a new ground. In an age marked by the loss of the grand gesture, what could be more attractive than a grand gesture?

How to Cite:

Melley, T., (2002) “The Sublime Object of Postmodernity”, Pynchon Notes , 122-130. doi:

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Published on
22 Sep 2002